Your Local Vote Counts for So Much More than a Penny

March 4, 2016


by Susan Krzeminski

When John F. Kennedy stated that “the margin is narrow, but the responsibility is clear,” he obviously could not have been thinking about our little towns of Hudson and Litchfield.  Yet, it holds true that the margin for warrant articles to be approved is quite often by a few votes.

The burning question is…why did voters show up in droves for the First in the Nation Primary on Feb. 9?  In fact, 8,618 registered voters turned up for the state primary in Hudson alone.  In Litchfield, 3,561 concerned citizens did their civic duty.

What will happen on Tuesday, March 8 when all of the local issues are up for consideration?  Despite the high stakes, only 3,000 voters are projected to make it to the polls on this all-important day of decisions.

Although presidential candidates won’t be listed on the ballots on March 8, the familiar names will all appear there as they vie for their town and school board seats.  And the issues that affect you locally will be front and center:  in Hudson, a $2.2 million fire station on Lowell Road and the addition of a full-time police officer; and in Litchfield, citizens’ approval of $15,597 in fees to participate in a coalition related to the Northeast Energy Gas Pipeline and a tax cap that regulates the town’s growth.  These are just a few top items of consideration among the 20 or so warrant articles listed on each of the town ballots.

The decisions made on these local issues will affect your daily life.  The items up for vote will impact each resident day in and day out.  Collective bargaining agreements with the teachers as well as the firefighters in Hudson, a zoning ordinance in Litchfield regarding signs, various town operating budgets, and road improvement projects totaling $200,000 in Litchfield.   The various issues on the local ballots affect the roads you drive on, the first responders who keep you safe, and the status of the schools where your children learn.

Now get ready for a math lesson.  In a national election, your vote is a minute percentage of all those who cast their opinions at the polls.  Meanwhile, your vote at the local level counts for a lot more when you do the math.  If three thousand of Hudson’s 16,691 registered voters make a visit to the polls next week, then each vote constitutes ? percentage of those eligible to vote.  Don’t forget that ? people live in Hudson, so your one vote equates to ?  Likewise, in Litchfield, if a projected ? voters show up, out of the ? who are registered, each vote equates to ? percent of the eligible voters.

When it comes to navigating your way through the ballot on March 8, you will have two ballots to consider:   one for the town and one for the school district.  Your job is simple:  fill in the ovals.  First, the names of the candidates will appear at the top of each ballot, along with what offices they are running for.  Following the candidates’ names, the warrant articles will appear in numerical order with a brief explanation and end with whether the town’s Board of Selectmen, school board and budget committee endorsed the particular article.

An indication will appear of how each group voted on each warrant article.  For example,  in Hudson, Warrant Article 7 on the replacement of the track at Alvirne High School for $494,458 was recommended by the Hudson School Board by a vote of 3 to 1 but was not recommended by the budget committee, 4 to 5.  One town over in Litchfield, the town’s Warrant Article 7 concerns the police contract, which appropriates $18,329 for the current fiscal year.  It was recommended by both the board of selectmen, 4 to 1, and by the budget committee, 8 to 0.

Here’s an historical comparison to put it all in perspective.

According to the Town of Hudson Annual Report from 1916, the town had six paid police staff members who received, in total, $82 for one year of work.  Next week in Hudson, voters will consider adding one full-time police officer at an annual sum of $85,343.

As for the costs incurred by the Hudson Fire Department a century ago, $650.77 was what it took to keep the public safe.  Today the ballot in Hudson includes Article 10 in which the sum of $79,829 will be considered for additional salaries and benefits for the Hudson Firefighters, IAFF Local 3154.

Now consider the school side of the equation.  Back in 1916, the summary of expenditures for the Hudson School District came to $6,948.70 for the entire year.  That included a total of $3,103 in teachers’ salaries.  Today’s voters are being asked to approve a three-year collective bargaining agreement  with the teachers that calls for $281,768 in increased salaries and benefits for the 2016-2017 school year.

What a difference a century makes.   Likewise, what a difference each local resident’s vote can make here in the towns of Litchfield and Hudson.